Wednesday, 9 December 2009

I need a people finder

There are one or two programmes on television both here and abroad looking at people’s search for their father. This indicates there is a real need. For many this search is because they were adopted or the family broke up and they are no longer in touch with their fathers. There are a number of internet sites offering help with this, particularly in tracking public records. This, of course, can be done from home but it is time-consuming and a certain amount of knowledge is required. In many ways it is similar to keen amateur genealogists and I have seen a number of these at the National Archives at Kew. They are usually retired people for whom this has become a consuming hobby and they are very knowledgeable.

However, for some of us there is no easy route. Those of us who are donor conceived can find nothing easily in public records or records which can be available to the public. Our need is just as great as for anyone else but records have been deliberately concealed. I can understand that this is seen by many as protection of the donors but even as my limited research shows, it was much more protection for the medical profession.

When we look at the history of donor conception we see that it is not just about kind-hearted doctors wanting to relieve the suffering of the infertile. There are other issues involved. We know that some doctors used their own sperm and donors were not always as carefully vetted as they should be. A programme on BBC3 about offspring of fathers who left their families made it clear that the offspring suffered as a result of not knowing their cultural heritage, the families they were part of and their medical history. The programme also highlighted the danger of not knowing who your half-siblings were and the danger of genetic attraction to those who were genetically related but who had not been raised together.

Although most of us over a certain age know we cannot legally obtain our records unless a donor or half siblings are actively looking for us, we are also hampered by the fact that most clinics claim to have destroyed their records or they have been destroyed at the demise of the doctors concerned. I have always believed that even if these records are not available exactly in the form in which they were made, extracts may have been used for research, ledgers for accounts and microfiches. My MP contacted the General Medical Council some months ago and I contacted Prof. Robert Winston earlier in the year. Both were unable/unwilling to help. But the BBC3 programme used a people finder. Obviously this is someone used to trawling through births, marriages and deaths registers but is there someone out there who could do something a bit more adventurous. Is there anyone out there who could find out who my father/half siblings are?

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